Since 1999, California has been protecting its marine life by providing underwater sanctuaries to preserve and reestablish increasingly threatened marine life. The network of sanctuaries is one of the world's largest and stretches all along the California coast. Everything in the protected areas is regulated; from recreation to research.
Lighthawk volunteer pilots fly airplanes above the waters, conducting aerial surveys of the habitats. Twice a month, the pilots follow whales and dolphins and monitor boat traffic. By collecting data on the geographic locations of the creatures, they are able to advise ships to change course and avoid collisions. They can then report their data to California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and help them establish the whales’ geographic distribution. The same observers are getting the bigger picture on the kelp reforestation in the area. Their work has become a vital element in the restoration of the marine ecosystem in the Pacific Ocean, from its gigantic mammals to its plants.